Ocean View the site of harmony?

Ocean View Town Council met Tuesday night for a public hearing regarding its 2010 comprehensive land-use plan. A touchy subject, to be sure, particularly regarding the increase in commercial lots compared to the past.

Touchy subjects in Ocean View over recent years typically result in messy scenes at town hall — from council members verbally attacking each other to vocal residents in the crowd disrupting meetings. It has earned the town a reputation it would most certainly rather not have, and has limited the ability of the council to be as productive for its citizens as it possibly could have been without the histrionics.

But perhaps cooler heads are beginning to prevail.

Make no mistake. The comprehensive land-use plan hearing generated emotions from both sides of the argument, from both council members and those in attendance. It’s a big deal that could leave a lasting imprint on the town for generations, and there were impassioned pleas for both increasing the areas zoned for business, and keeping the town the way it is.

But the town debated amongst itself. Residents had their say. Council members had their say. Constance Holland, director of planning for the State of Delaware, had her say. And Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader had his say. It was democracy at its finest, and it happened at Ocean View Town Hall.

We have never opined in this paper that council members should always agree with each other. We truly do appreciate council members having different opinions, and believe that’s how a democracy works best — people with different backgrounds and beliefs each present their sides and opinions and a vote is then held. And, yes, we also value public participation in the process, when applicable. We have a representative system where the people vote in officials to represent them, and that’s worked for a long time in this nation. But it’s still good to hear what people affected by changes directly have to say on issues.

Mayor Gordon Wood has said for months that he thought that the political climate in the town was changing for the better, and he might be right. Smart, reasonable discussion and disagreement is healthy, and both sides of any argument allowing the opposition to speak freely and without ridicule is how things often get done.

There are still some clashes of personalities in the town, but at least it looks as if they’re moving forward — not apart.